Allow me to explain a little bit about Barrow. This town, located on the Cumbrian coast, is widely regarded as one of the unhappiest places to live in Britain. It’s extremely isolated; looking out to the brown depths of the Irish Sea with windy conditions, heavy rain and a football club in the depths of the English football pyramid.
Enter Ian Evatt. The former Blackpool and Chesterfield defender was appointed manager of Barrow AFC in the summer of 2018. His only previous experience was a 3 game run as caretaker manager in charge of the latter in the final days of his playing career. A run of 1 win and 2 losses was hardly inspiring but Barrow admired his vision for the club; based off Holloway’s Blackpool underdogs, of which he was a key player, and awarded him with the full-time reigns of the club.
The club finished 20th in the National League in the season prior to his arrival and Evatt got straight to work with addressing the playing squad and tactical style. He introduced smaller, more technical centre-halves, ball-playing defenders as you may know them, and a front 3 which always maintains two on the last defender at all times. In a league where 4-4-2 prevails and long ball is the traditional style, Evatt was keen to prove that the gap in technical quality between the Football League and National League was nothing more than media hearsay.
The results were astounding.
Evatt’s side would finish in a respectful 11th in his first season. A side tipped for relegation were now in the ascendancy. His second season, however, drew national attention. The Athletic posted a viral article regarding the side tipping them as ‘Barrowcelona’. The team averaged 59% possession, won 21 games and only lost 9. They won the National League by 4 points or 0.11 points per game due to the impact of COVID-19.
Barrow, therefore, returned to the Football League for the first time in 48 years. Ian Evatt, in just two seasons, had guided the club on the cusp of the relegation to the 6th tier back to the professional leagues. He was hailed as a hero of the town, he got attendances above 2,000 and revitalised their connection to the fans.
However, his heroic status at the club was thrown into disarray when, on the 24th June 2020, Evatt left the club to join Bolton Wanderers.
This is where you come in.
The challenge is simple. Rise through the pyramid with Barrow using the legacy of Evatt as your foundation. Using his possession-based brand of football, preferably using his 3-4-1-2 formation, your job is to navigate the Football League while also ensuring long-term financial stability. Many saves have been created with clubs working their way through the pyramid but not many have done so using such a unique brand of football and formation. I will be uploading my own version of Evatt’s ‘Barrowcelona’ tactic to this site shortly but feel free to cement your own legacy on the club with your own tweaks and stylistic changes. However, the challenge is ensuring that the infamous tactical element is maintained and creating a recruitment strategy to match.
Here is hoping we will see Barrowcelona vs Barcelona in your FM save in the not so distant future.